Figure 8: Jonathan Mason Warren, 1811-1867.


Comparative views of Dr. Jonathan Mason Warren: A.) Figure 8 detail from EDD No. 1, age 35-36    B.) Profile (reversed) of Mason Warren, from EDD No. 2.    C.) Detail, also reversed, from Henry Bryan Hall's engraving of the Abbott operation.

•      •      •

The reenactment scenario of Ether Dome Daguerreotype No. 1 only works if Figure 8 can be identified as Abbott's surgeon, Dr. John Collins Warren, distinguished by his "gaunt face and flattened curl of hair."(28)  If this is the case, why did Henry Bryan Hall select Figure 8 as the model for delineating the profile of Warren's son in his engraving, a choice that wouldn't have been made arbitrarily? Demonstrated by the panel shown here, Hall's portrait of J. Mason Warren is a near perfect match and it was drawn in 1859 when, with the exception of his father and Samuel Parkman, all of the Abbott surgeons were still alive, and Rice & Hall had access to memories and archival material that were still very fresh. According to Lowry & Lowry the only connection J. Mason Warren had with the daguerreotype was in its commissioning, a photograph in lieu of an artist's painting to commemorate the inception of ether anesthesia at Mass. General Hospital.(29)

The Harvard Medical Library holds first and second states of the Hall engraving, which differ dramatically from the final print that illustrates the Rice book.(30)   It is clear from these earlier impressions that Hall started out copying the elements of EDD No. 5, but he struggled with the skewed perspectives of the figures. His splendid rendering of John Collins Warren from EDD No. 5 made it to the final print of his engraving and is a compelling testament to his skill as a portraitist. However, his faithful rendering of Jonathan Mason Warren from EDD No. 5 did not make it to the final print, abandoned for the more somber profile of the young surgeon copied from EDD No. 1.

According to his testimony in the Morton patent trial, J. Mason Warren was called away before the Abbott operation began, declaring "On Friday, being called to Watertown to perform an important surgical operation there, I was prevented from witnessing the operation at the hospital, but the facts in regard to it were stated to me, the same day, by Dr. Warren."(31 »»)  Hall's engraving is one of the protensive sources of the confusion that EDD No. 1 is a reenactment. In the opposite direction, from iconographic art to indexical ground, the etching falsely injected Jonathan Mason Warren into institutional memory that he was a principal in the Abbott operation.

Dr. Haridas placed question marks alongside the Lowry & Lowry attributions for Dalton, Heywood, Morton, Frost, Bigelow, and Warren in EDD No. 1. He supported his own attribution for J. Mason Warren by adding, "He was very interested in photography and may have commissioned the Reenactment daguerreotype, hence his presence in the photograph."(32)  I concur, and even after adjusting for chromatic aberrations, for artifacts in the silver deposition, a shadowy moustache and faux baldness caused by spotlights, the downcast profile of Figure 8 still compares favorably with his visage in EDD Nos. 2-5, and not his father's. To substantiate his attribution, Haridas referenced the eminent scholar of Ether Dome iconography, Richard J. Wolfe, who also identified J. Mason Warren as Figure 8 in the "reenactment" daguerreotype.(33)  Wolfe's attribution is little more than an undocumented gloss as is the date he claims it was taken, April 1847.

J. Mason Warren is credited with the introduction of the sponge for expressing ether, which was a tremendous improvement over Morton's device because it was easily deployed and lessened the hazards of choking and irritation. The first published reference of the use of the sponge is found in his historic treatise on ether anesthesia that continued his father's clinical study for an additional nineteen cases up to March 24, 1847, ten that were conducted in private practice and nine that were conducted at MGH. Reported under "Case II," Warren offered the sponge while assisting Dr. Buckminster Brown, who was struggling to etherize a recalcitrant 11-yr-old boy for an operation of tenotony in his club-foot.(34 »»)  It was demonstratively effective and immediately replaced Morton's device:

"Ether was first administered by an apparatus. The use of this was inconvenient, especially with children, and led me to administer it on a simple sponge, which immediately took the place of the apparatus everywhere. The sponge first used at the Hospital is still preserved there."—J. Mason Warren.(35 »»)

Dr. Brown never published the case, however the date of the operation, March 6, 1847, is found in Warren's testimony during the Morton patent trial.(36 »»)   The date conflicts with his son's account years later, who stated in his inaugural address as President to the American Surgical Association, "The sponge used here is known as the first sponge with which ether was given. This method was adopted in February, 1847, by Dr. J. Mason Warren."(37 »»)  President Dr. Warren was describing the collotype illustrating his address, a reproduction of EDD-No. 2, but his statement isn't declarative of a first-use of the sponge, but rather of the first one to be deployed at MGH. Haridas states, "This daguerreotype does not document the first ever use of the sponge, but documents an early use of the sponge at MGH." Lowry & Lowry also reference the collotype in their description of EDD No. 2, but rely on a loose interpretation of a MGH record from which they adduced it was the Hospital's first-use of a sponge. (38)  The sponge is currently on display at the Ether Dome in Boston.

28.) Lowry & Lowry (2005); p. 79.

29.) Ibid; p. 77.

30.) Wolfe, RJ (1993); Appendix 1, p. 123-126. "Illustration 27" (p. 124) is a reproduction of the 1st & 2nd states of Hall's engraving. "Illustration 28" (page 125) reproduces a sheet of Morton's holograph instructions attached to the 2nd state print.

31.) Morton, WTG, et al (1853), "Statements, supported by evidence, of Wm. T. G. Morton, M.D. on his claim to the Discovery of the Anaesthetic Properties of Ether, Submitted to the Honorable The Select Committee Appointed by Senate of the United States. Presented at: 32nd Congress, 2nd Session, Washington, D.C., January 21, 1853." Washington: np; p. 386-95. See page 387.

32.) Haridas, RP (2010); p. 17-18.

33.) Wolfe, RJ (2001), "Tarnished idol. William Thomas Green Morton and the Introduction of Surgical Anesthesia : a Chronicle of the Ether Controversy." San Anselmo, California: Norman Publishing; "Figure 12," page 78. The description of Figure 12, naming Warren appears on page xi and reads as follows: "Reenactment, probably also occurring in April 1847 and daguerreotyped by J. J. Hawes, of the first operation under ether. Those who can be identified are Solomon D. Townsend (second from the front on the left), Samuel Cabot (beside the person holding the ether inhaler), and J. Mason Warren (second from the front on the right). Reproduced from a print originally in the possession of the Morton family and now in the Harvard Medical Library." Cabot is discussed under Dr. Slade.

34) Warren, JM (1847), "Inhalation of ether." In: Boston Medical & Surgical Journal. Boston: David Clapp; vol. 36, no. 8 (March 24), p. 149-62. See "Case II," p. 150-1. Reprint also issued.

35.) Warren, JM (1867), "Surgical observations, with cases and operations." New York: William Wood & Co.; p. 618.

36.) Morton, WTG, et al (1853); p. 387.

37.) Warren Jr., JC (1896); p. 25.

38.) Lowry & Lowry (2005); no. 47, p. 87. See also the appendix, "The Young Seamstress Daguerreotype, April 3, 1847 (fig. 2)."

Home page

©All rights reserved.